"[Illuminated Bifolium]", Anon.
Subject: Medieval Manuscripts
Period: 1300 (circa)
Color: Hand Color
4.1 x 5.5 inches
10.4 x 14 cm
Book of Hours were prayer books designed for the laity, but modeled on the Divine Office, a cycle of daily devotions, prayers and readings, performed by members of religious orders and the clergy. Its central text is the Hours of the Virgin. There are eight hours (times for prayer ): Matins, Lauds. Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline. During the Middle Ages, the leaves making up a Book of Hours were written by hand on expensive parchment and beautifully illuminated with jewel-like pigments and gold leaf. These illuminated manuscripts combined the collaborative efforts of an array of highly skilled craftspeople; requiring the joint labors of the parchmenter, professional scribes to write the text in Gothic script, artists to illuminate the pages with decorations, and masterful binders to complete the process.
This double-sheet vellum leaf is from an early Breviary written in northern France or Flanders. The text is written in a single column (19 lines) in a clear gothic book hand in black and red ink. There are numerous small initials in red and blue, and one large initial in red, blue, white, and burnished gold, with a decorative border extending into the margins. The text is from Psalm 22, and starting with the large "D" on the recto at top, the text translates as:
O God my God, look upon me: why hast thou forsaken me? Far from my salvation are the words of my sins.
O my God, I shall cry by day, and thou wilt not hear: and by night, and it shall not be reputed as folly in me.
But thou dwellest in the holy place, the praise of Israel.
In thee have our fathers hoped: they have hoped, and thou hast delivered them.
They cried to thee, and they were saved: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.
But I am a worm, and no man: the reproach of men, and the outcast of the people.
Toned with light soiling and numerous tiny holes and cracks caused by the oxidation of the black pigment. There are two small chips at right.